Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich had been arrested in March after performing a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main cathedral, high-kicking and dancing while singing “Virgin Mary, drive Putin away!”
Judge Marina Syrova found the three guilty of “hooliganism driven by religious hatred." Each was sentenced to two years in prison.
The trial, which has been touted as an example of Russia’s intolerance of dissent, has drawn international outrage — with protesters in and outside Russia standing up in support of the feminist band. Celebrities including Paul McCartney and Madonna have also called for the women’s freedom.
Amnesty International strongly condemned Friday’s court’s ruling, calling it a “bitter blow” for freedom of expression in Russia.
In response and to show solidarity with the Pussy Riot defendants, Inna Shevchenko, a member of the Ukrainian group Femen which often stages bare-breasted shock performances, destroyed the four-meter high wooden cross bearing the figure of Christ.
"No business, not even one as successful as the church, has the right to attack women’s rights," Shevchenko, 22, a veteran of several Femen protests, said after bringing down the cross.